Bill Powers

Texas land commissioner George P. Bush speaks Monday evening at the awards ceremony for the inaugural Latin Leadership Award.
Photo Credit: Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

UT President Bill Powers presented land commissioner George P. Bush the inaugural Latino Leadership Award on Monday evening.

The president’s office worked in conjunction with the Center of Mexican American Studies and the Department of Mexican American and Latina/o Studies to select Bush as the first awardee, said Dr. Nicole Guidotti-Hernández, associate director of the Center for Mexican American Studies.

“We went through a series of 15 nominees, and we evaluated them for leadership, public service and areas like that,” Guidotti-Hernández said. “With him as the first Latino land commissioner, I think in its [179-year] history of the office, we thought it was an appropriate acknowledgement of what it means to be a trailblazer in Latino leadership today.”

As a son of a Mexican-American mother and as a Hispanic man who grew up in the U.S., Bush said he was honored to receive the award.

“Going to this University, being honored for the first time, it’s truly a honor and privilege,” Bush said. “It’s truly a challenge to take things to the next level, to give a hand to the next generation of students looking at opportunities whether its public service or grad school or finding opportunities that can improve their life. [There is] a lot of work ahead.”

Bush said he wants his agency to help both the center and the department.

“They’re doing research that I think is going to benefit our agency,” Bush said. “In terms of projecting the big needs facing the community, they mentioned health care, immigration, voter ID and so forth, which is helpful to our agency.”

While Bush accepted the award, approximately 15 protesters in the West Mall came to express their dissatisfaction at Bush receiving this award, as well as with his political track record. 

Feminist activist Martha Cotera speaks in front of the tower in protest of the decision to grant Land Commissioner George P. Bush the inaugural Latino Leadership Award Monday evening. Cotera and other protestors cited Bush's political record on issues ranging from immigration to fracking and environmental concerns as reasons why he should not have been selected for the award. Carlo Nasisse | Daily Texan Staff

According to Daniel Yanez, an Austin community organizer, Bush appears to care about issues facing the Latino community, but he hasn’t done anything actually benefitting that group.

“As a politician, he has never come out for Hispanic or Latino or Mexican-American issues,” Yanez said. “To give him an award, particularly of this type — I have to laugh.”

Protesters addressed several of the issues Bush said he wishes to improve. Students gathered around to listen to feminist activist Martha Cotera, who took a strong stance against most of Bush’s political policies, ranging from immigration to fracking and environmental concerns.

“It’s difficult for students and faculty and staff to get involved in actions like this,” Cotera said. “We do not know how this honor came about. We are concerned that the values that this person has publicly talked about and in the Republican platform that he supports are anti-civil rights, anti-poor, anti-women.”

Photo Credit: Jonathan Garza | Daily Texan Staff

Much has been said in the past couple of days about UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa instructing President Bill Powers to resign at risk of termination. I have never before written a letter to the editor, but I cannot imagine a more apt time for my first.

I recently left the 40 Acres after three years as a Longhorn student-athlete to begin my professional baseball career. I officially graduate with B.A. degrees in English and History this August, but recent circumstances request my voice be heard as a Texas Ex and proud alumnus before the ink is dry on my diplomas.

I unequivocally support Powers, and you should as well if you care about the best interests of The University of Texas at Austin.

Since Powers took office in 2006, he has been a dedicated leader of our proud University, which simultaneously reaps the benefits and bears the responsibilities of being the flagship institution of higher learning in the state of Texas, the proudest state in the Union. The facts prove Powers’ merit; the University's improved academic standards, enriched general endowment and new medical school all testify to the president's tremendous resourcefulness and diligence.

However, Powers' job is being threatened not because of his past performance or even his ability to maintain his (excellent) standards of operation going into the future. He is being attacked politically, at a time when the University of Texas desperately needs a president who is brave enough to weather personal political affronts in honor of what is best for the University. Thankfully, Powers has withstood the challenge.

For years now, the Texas Legislature has decreased public funding to the University of Texas in opposition to the University's ambition to become the best public research university in the country. Non-Longhorns (like our longtime governor) wonder why it is so important to the state for The University of Texas to aspire to such great heights. They scratch their heads and envision the University of Texas at Austin lowering its admissions standards and issuing cookie-cutter degrees in contravention of its core mission. Surely, these non-Longhorns are unfamiliar with the motto on our university's seal, "Disciplina Praesidium Civatis." (Translation: A cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy.)

I find that phrase intriguingly applicable to the situation in which Powers finds himself today. At a time when Powers is committed to bettering the University and providing a superior environment for the cultivation of minds, UT System Regent Wallace Hall is leading an undemocratic witch-hunt to oust him. The Board of Regents apparently does not believe that it needs to abide by the instructions of state Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, and the House Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations, which has specifically said not to fire Powers during a current investigation.

Interestingly enough, Hall, who so desperately wants to oust Powers, is currently at risk of being impeached himself for wrongdoing in the investigation of Powers. Perhaps foreseeing the end of his own career has motivated Hall to hasten his groundless attacks against Powers in the middle of summer while students are away from their studies.

When students do return to campus, though, they will inevitably pass the Tower countless times. Whenever they do, even if they do not take notice, they will pass on the southwest corner of the building an engraved inscription describing the University, "Core Purpose: To transform lives for the benefit of society." If you have not yet watched Admiral McRaven's 2014 Commencement Address, I suggest you go do so on YouTube as soon as possible. If you have, perhaps you will remember that Admiral McRaven posited that the Class of 2014 alone can change the lives of 800 million people if each individual graduate changes the lives of but 10 separate people. (For my part, I am first working on making my bed more often.)

I am confident that the University of Texas will continue to transform lives for the benefit of society whether or not Powers survives the upcoming Board of Regents meeting. That said, I am equally convinced that more lives will be transformed for the better if Powers retains his current position. Personally, I experienced both the ups and downs of being a student-athlete at The University of Texas, and I know that the rest of my life will be profoundly affected for the better by my past three years in Austin. I understand that Powers is not solely responsible for the overwhelming pride I possess for my alma mater, but I also appreciate what a fine job he has done and will continue to do as the president of the school.

Longhorn pride runs deep in my family, with both my parents and several other relatives having graduated from the University. Next month, my younger sister will enroll in the Business Honors Program as a part of the Class of 2018, and I hope that she, too, will be able to spend the majority of her time on the 40 Acres with Powers at the helm. If retained, he will continue to lead the University of Texas at Austin to a bright future in accordance with its motto, core purpose and mission, which is "to achieve excellence in the interrelated areas of undergraduate education, graduate education, research and public service."

Powers has refused to resign, and I support him. I implore anyone else with an ounce of burnt orange in his or her blood to join me in resisting the Board of Regents' unreasonable call for Powers’ resignation/termination. Sign the online petition that already has 7,500+ signatures at the time of this writing. Publicly support the man who has publicly supported the University of Texas so well over the past eight years that he was elected by other university presidents to be the chairman of the Association of American Universities.

This May, I received my final email as an undergraduate student at the University from Powers. He concluded it by saying, "From teaching to nursing, accounting to the arts, engineering to journalism, and in so much else, what starts here changes the world." Powers has repeatedly done everything he can do to improve the University of Texas at Austin — and in turn, change the world. Therefore, we do not need to change presidents. If you disagree, revise what Davy Crockett once famously said to end with, "... and I will stand by Bill Powers."

 

Hook 'em,

 

John Curtiss

 

B.A. English 2014

B.A. History 2014

Plan I Honors

Longhorns Baseball, 2012-2014

Wallace Hall has been way more trouble than he is worth. Whatever your political views, you’d have to be crazy to think Hall is a good thing for UT. Thank goodness we have Bill Powers to stand up to him.

— Online commenter jennifer_roy in response to the news story “Report: Chancellor Cigarroa asked President Powers to resign in summer 2013” 

 

I think Mr. Hall has been demonized to a level he does not deserve. Not the brightest character on the Board of Regents, but not deserving of borderline abuse. Powers on the other hand deserves some additional criticism. His use of the press (Austin Statesman) to wage battles with the board of Regents was unprofessional and demonstrated poor judgement. That is one of the reasons Dr. Cigarroa had a problem with Powers, and I do not think the University community should brush aside so easily this point in their never ending praise of Lord Powers. There are two sides to most stories.

— Online commenter “Antonio,” in response to the news story “Report: Chancellor Cigarroa asked President Powers to resign in summer 2013” 

 

Seriously? No data on how this ratio of fruit eating compares to other universities or even national grocery store averages? No data on how this historical ratio (or even quantity) has changed over time? This article is the most laughably useless, content-and-insight-free garbage I’ve read at the Texan yet.

But wait! Turns out they did include some data on historical consumption: “’In the last 20 years, my bet is that there is more fruit being eaten now than then,’ Meyer said.”

Well thank goodness for that. I don’t know what I’d do without Meyer and his hunch. Please tell me this was an April Fools joke and this nonsense is about to get replaced with a real article.

— Online commenter “The Art of Logic,” in response to the news story “At UT, students prefer to go banana”

 

If you don’t like it so much why don’t you move? Democrats whine and snarl all day that they don’t like the politics here, without realizing that they (and we) would be much happier if they’d all just get the heck out.

— Online commenter “The Art of Logic,” in response to Noah Horwitz’s column, “In race for governor, Abbott shows no sign of swinging back toward the middle” 

 

 

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

Following UT politics is hard, but it’s often the most difficult things that are worth doing — or in this case, worth watching. Below is the Daily Texan editorial board’s guide to the issues to watch at UT during the spring 2014 semester, a list we will continue in Tuesday’s paper. And, if you have more of your own to add, tweet them at us with the hashtag #Texanwatchlist

1. The ongoing saga of Powers v. UT System

On Dec. 12, after four and a half hours of closed-door discussion, the UT System Board of Regents refused to take action on the employment of President William Powers Jr., adding a new chapter to the nearly three-year-long battle between the president and the board. Given the personal turn the struggle has taken in recent years, with a state committee on transparency considering the impeachment of Regent Wallace Hall for overreaching his authority and the governor himself referring to those opposing the regents as “charlatans and peacocks,” the tense speech given by Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, in which he accused Powers of misrepresenting the regents’ goals to those outside the situation, seemed about the best possible outcome.

“In this context, understanding that I am hopeful that this strained relationship can be improved, it is my recommendation that Bill Powers should continue his appointment as president of the University of Texas at Austin,” Cigarroa said. 

Though Powers’ supporters were quick to declare a victory, there’s no indication that Powers will take Cigarroa’s advice to heart — or, for that matter, that Powers was any more guilty than the regents were of playing petty personal games at the expense of focusing on higher education policy. Granted, things are different this time around: Perry’s on his way out — though he might suggest he’s on to the presidency — meaning he can exert less influence through lasting appointments to the board. Powers, after years of fighting, may be just too damn tired to keep up the fight. And, with Mack Brown out, the insistent boosters rumored to be pressuring the regents to force Powers to oust his close friend or lose his own job are no longer an issue, if they were even one in the first place. 

But the fate of Regent Wallace Hall has yet to be decided, leaving a gaping hole in the narrative. Though the transparency committee weighing Hall’s fate has no future meetings scheduled, it has asked the UT System to reply to a series of directives on the regents’ history of open records requests by Feb. 1.

But above all else, students should keep their eyes on this issue to see what happens if the powers that be stop lighting fires and allow the smoke to clear. When the fight between the regents and Powers started, the issues were educational in nature: how much to charge for tuition, how many students to put in a classroom, whether to fund online education expansion at the expense of on-campus initiatives. It’s only in the past year and a half that the struggle has devolved into arguments about the cost of open records requests and the influence politicians exert to get their children admitted to the University. 

Beyond the constant personal fights, the UT System is still struggling to balance raising its prestige with providing affordable education to an ever-increasing number of willing students. Those issues are worth fighting for, and it’s high time our regents and our president returned their attention to the proper battle. 

2. The fates of the two “first” black head coaches at UT

On Jan. 4, Charlie Strong accepted the position of UT’s head football coach, just under three weeks after Brown’s era ended when Brown stepped down from the position amid intense pressure from fans and pundits. 

It’s no secret that Strong wasn’t the first choice for Texas: When asked on Dec. 12 if the Longhorns would be able to bring much-sought-after Alabama football coach Nick Saban to Texas, booster Red McCombs responded, “Oh, I don’t think there’s any question about getting him. Hell, all the money that’s not in the Vatican is up at UT.” 

But that money failed to lure Saban to the land of burnt orange, and after several other rumored candidates, including Baylor’s Art Briles, publicly declared their disinterest, Strong accepted. 

In a radio interview, McCombs called Strong’s hiring “a kick in the face.” McCombs has since apologized to Strong, but his statement is the clearest indication yet of the hurdles Strong may have to face to find success in his new position. 

Unlike his predecessor, Strong is in no way part of the good-old-boys booster network that has traditionally supported Texas football. And, as many members of the media have pointed out, Strong doesn’t even look like them: Unlike most men of influence in Texas, Strong is black, making him the first black football coach in Texas’ history. 

If the significance of Strong’s race is lost on any members of  the UT community, they would do well to remember that the difference between black male representation on campus and black male representation on revenue-generating athletic teams at UT is 66 percent. And there are few black men enrolled at UT in the first place: only 842 as of 2011.

Strong, of course, isn’t technically the first black head coach in Texas history. That title goes to Bev Kearney, the former women’s track coach. Kearney filed a $1 million lawsuit against UT in November after she was removed from her position for having a relationship with a student. The Kearney case, with its ever-unraveling layers of potential race and gender discrimination, may cast a cloud over the progress that is Strong’s hiring. Any student with an interest in equality should keep a close watch on both of Texas’ “first” black head coaches. 

Mack Brown speaks to media in December 2013 at Darrell K Royal Texas Memorial Stadium about stepping down as the head coach of the Texas football team. Brown will receive the lifetime achievement award at the Paul “Bear” Bryant Awards on Jan. 13, 2016.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

When Mack Brown began his tenure in Austin 16 years ago he inherited a divided fan base. Now, after rejuvenating the Longhorns and getting Texas back to national prestige, he cited a similar situation as his reason for stepping down as head coach.

“Darrell Royal told us what you have to do to be the head football coach at Texas,” Brown said. “Since it’s a diverse group that follows this team, you have to pull it all together. It’s like a box of BBs. The BBs are dropped all over the room, what you have to do it get the BB’s back in the box. And we were able to do that…then as of late the BBs have gotten out of the box again.”

A day after the school announced the Alamo Bowl would be his last game as head coach at Texas, Brown spoke to the media Sunday.  

 Brown said he met with University President Bill Powers and new Athletic Director Steve Patterson Friday afternoon to discuss the future of Texas football. After deliberating many options with his wife, Sally, he came to the conclusion the best decision for the university was to step down.

“We had a great conversation,” Brown said. “They expressed their support and they wanted me to stay. But we met again on Saturday and we mutually decided it was best for us to move on.”

Brown’s announcement came at the end of an eventful week. On Tuesday, reports surfaced that Brown was retiring, sending Texas into a frenzy. After Brown and the university denied those reports, many believed the veteran head coach would announce his resignation at the Longhorn banquet Friday night. Instead, Brown made no mention of his future until his official decision came Saturday night.

“I was really back and forth all week,” Brown said. “I sincerely want what’s best for the University of Texas. There are just too many distractions, too many negatives, and the players and assistant coaches shouldn’t have to deal with negatives about me.”

While Brown has struggled in recent years, he set the standards Texas lives up to today. After 16 years in Austin, Brown said it’s pretty simple how he wants to be remembered for his tenure at Texas.                             

“I want to be remembered of bringing some joy back to Texas, getting us back on track,” Brown said. “The second thing is that I did it with integrity and class. I think the third thing is the wonderful young people that have gone through our tutelage.”

Brown said he will have no involvement in the search to find his replacement. He will spend the next two weeks preparing for Oregon and will then become a special assistant to President Powers.

“[Sally and I] will do anything Bill and Steve ask us to do,” Brown said. “I have no interest in being involved in the coaching search cause that’s their choice. But if there is something we can do to help, then we want to help.”

Patterson and Powers, who spoke after Brown, discussed the search for Texas’ new head coach and admitted they have yet to spend much time recruiting. But they did debunk any rumors surrounding Alabama head coach Nick Saban. 

“There has been a lot of malarkey in the press the last few weeks,” Patterson said. “But we haven’t talked to any [coaches]. We’ve really been focused through today on figuring out where we are with Mack.”

 Patterson also said there is no timetable for when Texas will to hire its new head coach. But he did say the sooner would be better.

“I’d like to have a coach by Tuesday at noon if we could, but I don’t think so,” Patterson said. “I think we need to sit down and be clear about what the criteria are and then you sit down and start talking with people and match those up.”

 

 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

A day after football head coach Mack Brown stepped down as the head coach at Texas, Brown, President William Powers Jr. and men's head athletic director Steve Patterson reflected on his 16-year tenure while also looking forward.

Patterson and Powers will soon embark on a thorough coaching search, seeking a coach who fits the Longhorns’ criteria and can advance the foundation Brown laid in Austin.

“Mack would always shun talking about his legacy,” Powers said. “It’s an unbelievable legacy. This is a transition away from one of the greatest coaches of all time.”

Brown will move into a consultant’s role under Powers, where he will assist the university in an undetermined fashion.

The 62-year-old former head coach made it clear he would not be a part of the hiring process for Texas' next coach. Brown said he would only provide his input if Powers or Patterson asked.

Patterson said he had not spoken to anybody about replacing Brown yet. But he listed of a number of factors he considered paramount in the Longhorns’ next head man. He wants a coach with the ability to handle scrutiny, recruit at the highest level and manage graduation rates. But most importantly, Patterson emphasized the necessity of winning.

“The key is setting the criteria, getting some clarity around that,” Patterson said.

The first-year AD also made it clear any coach he would hire needs college football coaching experience.

“College football is a different enterprise than the NFL,” Patterson said. “There are far different requirements. I think whoever is going to coach here needs extensive college experience.”

Powers spent much of the press conference complimenting Brown’s integrity, and stressed the necessity of this attribute for Texas’ next head coach.

“This is a very visible institution,” Powers said. “Honesty, what [Brown] said you can take to the bank. I think that is a skill any college coach needs to have.”

Patterson did not put a timetable on the coaching search. Patterson said he had not thought about who the next coach could be, and he would take his time with the process. He also stated the university had not decided whether it would hire a search committee to assist with the procedure.

Patterson also stressed the need to keep the hiring process quiet and out of the media.

“I think that’s the only successful way to have a search process,” Patterson said. “At the end of the day, there’s been a lot malarkey in the press over the last couple of weeks…. I think you have to have the ability to have a private conversation.”

Powers insisted that it would be Patterson, not he or Texas’ board of regents, making the hiring decision.

“Athletics is not my field,” Powers said. “We will talk together and consult and we’ll sit down and go through the process. But Steve Patterson will hire the next head coach.”

Powers also insisted the regents did not play a part in Brown stepping down, nor will they help decide the Longhorns’ next coaching hire.

“I was not given any direction at all from any regent on this issue,” Powers said. “ I was told by regents, ‘We don’t hire the coaches.’”

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

In a UT System Board of Regents meeting Thursday, Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa recommended President William Powers Jr. remain in office, despite describing the current relationship between Powers and the UT System as “strained.”

After the meeting, Powers said he was appreciative of the chancellor’s support but declined to comment on rumors that head coach Mack Brown will be replaced by Nick Saban, current head football coach at the University of Alabama. Powers, who has supported Brown in the past, makes hiring and firing decisions alongside recently-hired athletic director Steve Patterson. 

“We’ll discuss football at the appropriate time,” Powers said after the board meeting. 

UT spokesman Gary Susswein said a meeting between Powers, Brown and Patterson will occur in a “short period of time.” 

Brown denied circulating reports that he is stepping down as head football coach at a press conference Thursday for the upcoming Alamo Bowl, stating his “situation has not changed.”

Cigarroa said a primary source of tension between Powers and the system was an inconsistency between Powers’ public and private statements to the chancellor and others.

“The main reason for the strain is that Bill and I would agree on certain principles and then I would act on those principles but then Bill Powers would often convey a message of misalignment, leading to conflict between UT system administration and the University of Texas at Austin,” Cigarroa said.

Cigarroa said it was clear Powers has enormous support from faculty members, graduate and undergraduate students and alumni.

“There exists strong faculty, undergraduate and graduate student support for President Powers, represented by three resolutions of support by each group. There exists strong alumni support for President Powers,” Cigarroa said. “The alumni and the University of Texas at Austin staff and the development board are working exceptionally hard and are in reach of achieving the $3 billion capital campaign call by August of 2014.”

Cigarroa also said he was aware that firing Powers might diminish the University’s ability to hire other administrators.

“[The president and provost] are making great progress in the hiring of a dean of the Dell School of Medicine,” Cigarroa said. “I’ve also been told that a change of leadership in this moment would jeopardize recruitment of an outstanding dean, as well as other important leaders.”

Powers said he appreciated the chancellor’s continued support.

“I do appreciate, as I’ve said before, the chancellor’s support, the chairman's support, and I very, very much look forward to working on moving our University going ahead,” Powers said.

Cigarroa said he is hopeful of a “brighter horizon” in the relationship with Powers that he acknowledges has its problems.

"It is my full expectation that together, President Powers and I will work towards resolving them and moving ahead,” Cigarroa said.

Board chairman Paul Foster said he hoped the System and University would be able to move on from the tensions of the past few months. Currently, Regent Wallace Hall is under investigation by the House Select Committee on Transparency for allegations that he “overstepped his role” as a regent. Cigarroa and Powers have both been subpoenaed to testify later this month.

“I’m optimistic about the future of UT Austin, and I’m confident all this controversy will soon be a distant memory,” Foster said.

Student Government president Horacio Villarreal said he was happy with the chancellor’s announcement of support, despite the stress he experienced during the prolonged meeting. The regents’ closed executive session, which was scheduled to last until 2:00 PM, went on for almost two extra hours before re-opening at 4:00 PM.

“Obviously, I’m incredibly pleased and overwhelmed,” Villarreal said. “The fact that we waited for a while as [the regents] stayed in executive session, talking for quite some time, had us a little bit on edge — but the fact that we do have support from the chancellor is absolutely incredible.”

Relations between Powers and certain members of the board, including Hall, Alex Cranberg and Gene Powell have been tense for several years.

At a meeting in March, amidst conflict involving the UT School of Law’s forgivable loan program, Regent Steven Hicks said he would prefer the board address Powers' employment status directly, if that was the true motivation regents had for continuing investigations into the program.

“It would be simpler to me, instead of spending the money [to continue an additional, external investigation],” Hicks said at the meeting. “If that’s the real goal, let’s just put that on the table and deal with it.”

At that meeting, in a 4-3 vote, the Board of Regents decided to begin a new external review of the UT Law School Foundation’s relationship to the School of Law. In 2011, Powers asked Larry Sager, then dean of the School of Law, to resign after it was revealed Sager received a $500,000 forgivable loan as part of a program administered by the Foundation. Though Hall maintained Powers knew about the loan program while it was ongoing, Powers firmly denied his knowledge.

“Any implication that what occurred today is about not being transparent or forthcoming with information to the System, or perhaps to the Regents, is simply false,” Powers said in March.

Ultimately, after requests from several legislators, the Regents voted to allow the Texas Attorney General to conduct an additional investigation, rather than proceeding with the $500,000 external investigation.

Tensions have also impacted day-to-day operations at the University. In August, the University announced Greg Fenves, dean of the Cockrell School of Engineering, would replace outgoing provost Steven Leslie after a smaller and faster job search than is typical for a high-level position, largely as a result of “instability on campus,” Powers said.

“The process of going about looking for a provost with a full, natural search, or normal committee, will be difficult to do,” Powers said at a Faculty Council meeting in March. “We’re in a tricky situation.”

Alan Friedman, an English professor and a former Faculty Council chairman who has worked at the University since 1964, told The Texan in April that he feels the board’s actions have an impact on faculty morale and decision-making.

“There is a good deal of talk about what is happening on campus as a result of the regents’ actions, and some if it does factor into faculty members who are not staying or who are not coming,” Friedman said. “I think a lot of faculty members feel the campus is under siege from the very people who are appointed to protect and support the quality of the educational experience on this campus.”

Music professor Martha Hilley, who is past chair of the UT Faculty Council, was teary-eyed after the meeting adjourned.

“Other than the tears, I’m very hopeful,” Hilley laughed. “We’re going to [get to work] quickly.”

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Update at 4:50 p.m.: The UT System Board of Regents opted to take no action regarding President William Powers Jr.'s employment situation Thursday afternoon, though UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa issued a strong warning to Powers to "improve relationships" with the UT System and the board.

After being in executive session for nearly four-and-a-half hours, Cigarroa made a lengthy statement to the board in which he alternated between criticizing and praising Powers. Cigarroa said Powers had made public statements that showed misalignment between UT and the System despite being in agreement, and that Powers had been at times difficult to work with. Cigarroa also acknowledged Powers' broad support among faculty, students and alumni, and that a change in leadership would make it difficult for recruitment. He said the relationship between himself and Powers has also improved recently.

Cigarroa then recommended keeping Powers as the president of UT, and board Chairman Paul Foster adjourned the meeting.

"I'm optimistic about the future of UT-Austin, and I'm confident all this controversy will soon be a distant memory," Foster said.

After the decision, Powers said he is thankful for the chancellor's support.

Update at 4:35 p.m.: UT System Board of Regents take no action regarding Powers.

Update at 4:31 p.m.: UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa: "I am hopeful that the strained relationship [between Powers and the UT System] can be improved... it is my recommendation that Bill Powers remains president of the University of Texas at Austin."

Update at 4:15 p.m.: The UT System Board of Regents have just ended executive session are allowing media and outside personnel to convene in the conference room.

Update at 11:15 a.m.: Brown said he would not speak on his employment situation during the press conference, saying he needed to speak with President William Powers Jr. and new men's head athletic director Steve Patterson before doing so. Brown also apologized to Valero Alamo Bowl officials for his job status serving as a "distraction."

Brown avoided questions about his future during the press conference, making a brief statement and then asking the media to refrain from asking questions unless they were about the Alamo Bowl.

Afterwards, university benafactor Red McCombs spoke to the media and had this to say about Brown's situation.

"I think that Mack has earned the right to choose whatever he wants to do, whether he wants to stay or he wants to go," McCombs said.... "If you can find a reason to get rid of a guy like that, you’d really have to reach."

He also had the quote of the day when he spoke about Texas' potential interest in Alabama head coach Nick Saban and if Texas had enough money to sway him to Austin.

"I don't think there's any question," McCombs said. "All the money that's not in the Vatican is up at UT."

Original: On the second day of final exams, two of the University’s most prominent faces will be sizing up to tests of their own.

The UT System Board of Regents plans to hold a discussion “concerning [the] employment” of President William Powers Jr. at its meeting today, according to the board’s agenda.

Meanwhile, about 80 miles south in San Antonio, football head coach Mack Brown faces questions from reporters about his job situation for the first time since reports of him stepping down emerged earlier this week. The University strongly denied those reports. Brown is in San Antonio for a coaches availability for the Valero Alamo Bowl, in which the Longhorns will face of with the Oregon Ducks on Dec. 30.

The tenuous employment situations of the pair of friends and hexagenarians have been ongoing since 2010.

Powers and a handful of the regents have disagreed over a range of topics including the purpose of higher education, tuition increases and fundraising. Currently, the Texas Legislature is holding impeachment hearings on whether Regent Wallace Hall overstepped his duties as a regent, with allegations that he was leading a “witch hunt” to oust Powers.

And Brown, after leading the Longhorns to nine straight seasons of 10 wins or more and a national championship, has struggled to get Texas back on track after a disastrous 5-7 season in 2010.

Powers and Brown are also being evaluated by a different pair of eyes than they had in the past. Gov. Rick Perry appointed two new regents — Jeffrey Hildebrand and Ernest Aliseda — to the board in February, while the University hired Steve Patterson last month to replace long-time men’s head athletic director DeLoss Dodds, who will be retiring in August.

Check in with The Daily Texan for updates on Brown and Powers through the day.

University of Texas President Bill Powers shot down any rumors of Alabama head coach Nick Saban becoming the Longhorns’ new football Thursday, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Powers also said no decision had been made about current head coach Mack Brown’s future with the team.

"I've never met Nick Saban,” Powers told the Statesman. “I've never talked to Nick Saban. We have not hired Nick Saban. Mack’s our coach, and I can say flatly that the rumors we have hired or come to an agreement with Nick Saban or even talked to him are false."

Saban has been the head coach at Alabama since 2007, winning three national championships in the last four years. Despite his success, rumors have circulated throughout the season that Saban would consider leaving Tuscaloosa to coach the Longhorns.

Brown continues to maintain interest in continuing his career at Texas until his contract runs out in 2020. He has coached the Longhorns since 1998, winning the national championship in 2005 and reaching the title game in 2009. 

Regent Wallace Hall alleges lawmakers unduly influence admissions

A University of Texas regent has responded to a House committee considering his impeachment by alleging that lawmakers unduly influenced student admissions in at least two cases and that school officials misrepresented donations, according to an attorney's letter released Friday.

The formal response from Wallace Hall's attorney said Hall was just doing his job in questioning activities at the University of Texas at Austin and called on lawmakers to conduct a thorough investigation. Hall has made repeated requests for a large number of university records, which some lawmakers have called a witch hunt to justify removing UT Austin President Bill Powers, a political enemy of Gov. Rick Perry. Hall was appointed by Perry.

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus asked the Select Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations to look into Hall and what critics call his attempt to micromanage the university.

"Regent Hall looks forward to the opportunity to tell this committee exactly what he was looking for, what he found and what he believes are the next steps on such topics as have animated members of the Legislature," the letter from attorney Stephen Ryan said. "He will stop only when the University of Texas System ... fully shares this committee's expressed commitment to transparency to all Texans."

The letter said Hall has found evidence that one House member and one senator improperly influenced university officials to accept two students at the UT system's flagship campus. He said the university also improperly reported non-cash gifts and failed to make information overall available to regents or the public as required by law.

Additionally, he expressed concern about salary enhancements for law school faculty, an issue that led to the UT law school dean's resignation.

There was no immediate way to independently verify Hall's allegations.

Gary Susswein, a spokesman for the University of Texas at Austin, denied any wrongdoing by campus officials.

"We're proud of our admissions policy and are happy to talk to the legislative committee about applicant recommendations we receive from lawmakers and other state officials, including regents," he said. "There was a disagreement over an accounting procedure and we've complied with the regent's request to count these contributions differently."

In June, powerful Republican Rep. Jim Pitts, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, asked lawmakers to investigate Hall, complaining that he was acting on behalf of Perry to force Powers out of office in order to radically change how UT operates.

Perry has called on the university's leadership to adopt wholesale changes proposed by a conservative think-tank, which officials say would cripple the campus and hurt its academic reputation.

Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, grilled Perry's latest additions to the UT Board of Regents during their confirmation hearings earlier this year about their role as overseers of the system and insisted they not try to directly manage the campuses, where educators enjoy some autonomy.

Hall also attracted criticism for failing to disclose his involvement in several corporate lawsuits when he filled out a questionnaire prior to his Senate confirmation. Hall has since updated his disclosure forms.